CONCORD, N.H. – With its first attempt stalled in the Senate, the House voted Wednesday for the second time this year to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty in hopes a botched execution in Oklahoma will change the outcome.
The key vote was 218-117 to require a life sentence for anyone convicted of capital murder. The vote sends the bill back to the Senate where supporters hope senators will reconsider their 12-12 vote last month on the first repeal bill passed by the House.
The Senate tabled the first bill, leaving open the possibility it could be resurrected. But time is running out before the session ends June 5.
Repeal supporters are hopeful the Senate will reconsider the bill since its vote was taken before the death of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett. The condemned man’s vein collapsed after a lethal injection, prompting prison officials to halt the execution. He later died of a heart attack.
Rep. Renny Cushing, the prime sponsor of the first repeal effort, said the Oklahoma case may have prompted some New Hampshire lawmakers to reconsider their opposition to the bill. But Rep. Keith Murphy, R-Bedford, said the case involved a convicted killer who deserved to die. “He was a monster,” Murphy said.
The vote comes two days after Brentwood Police Officer Stephen Arkell was fatally shot responding to a domestic call involving an argument between a father and a son, the suspected gunman who later died in a fire.
Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, asked what authorities would tell fallen officers’ families if the officers’ killers were not executed.
“Fortunately, that officer’s killer already got the death sentence,” he said of the suspected gunman in Monday’s shooting.
The state’s last execution was in 1939, when Howard Long was hanged for molesting and beating a 10-year-old boy to death. Michael Addison is the only person on death row currently.
Addison was convicted of shooting Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs to death in 2006 and was sentenced to die in 2008. The state Supreme Court in November upheld his conviction and sentence in the first death penalty appeal to come before it in 50 years.
The House voted in favor of repeal 225-104 in March, and Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would sign the measure into law as long as Addison’s death sentence remained intact.
The Senate voted on the bill then tabled it.
It was the closest a death penalty repeal measure has come since 2000, when both houses passed the bill but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.